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Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

Inspiration

As a member of Naomi House and Jacksplace Hospices for Children and Young Adults New Forest Committee for 16 years, volunteer fundraising activities are a way of life as £7,000,000 is needed each year for the hospice to run, the majority of which comes from the generosity of the public and community fundraising.

I have now completed two self funded treks in the Annapurna Himalaya which have raised over £7000.

Previous Challenge: Annapurna Explorer Trek October 2011

My close friend Jean and I completed the 7 day Annapurna Explorer Trek in October 2011. We booked with the excellent Himalayan Adventure Company based in Kathmandu, Nepal and the UK and with our wonderful guide and porters, Prakash, Chitra and Sanir; we reached the highest point Poon Hill at 3200 metres.

Our challenge inspired everyone we spoke to, even though they thought we were mad, so I thought it a good opportunity to use this trek as a fundraising event for the Charity that I have been involved with for so many years.

The trek involved walking between 5 and 9 hours a day climbing up and down endless stone steps, something we are not used to in the South of England. Any obstacles along the way were quickly overcome by the thought of the children, young people and their families who rely on Naomi House for so much. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other after all.  We eventually finished the trek after 7 days, having completed 50 miles up and down the wonderful Annapurna range.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek April 2013

The previous experience was exhilarating and wonderful, so in April 2013, we embarked on the 12 day Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, again with the Himalayan Adventure Company, Prakash one again as our guide and Sujan and Surya our porters. The motto of Nepal is ‘once is not enough’ and in our case it wasn’t. Some people thought that at the age of 61 I wouldn’t make it and I did have my concerns. However we did make it and it was one of the most wonderful experiences I have ever had.

This trek is graded moderate to strenuous and involved walking and climbing from Naya Pul at 1000 metres up to the Annapurna Base Camp which took 7 days, again walking between 7 and 8 hours a day. We started our trek in sub tropical heat and arrived at Base Camp at 4130 metres in 4 inches of snow after enduring rain and hail storms and passing through avalanche chutes in the Modi Khola Gorge. The descent took another 5 days making a detour from the schedule to visit Ghandruk where we had been before and wanted to revisit.

The Annapurna trail has many steep stone staircases that go up, down, and then up again and involve climbing up thousands of steps to the villages along the way and then down again before ascending to the next village. As you climb higher, the steps become boulders.

Altitude sickness is possible, but Prakash was always asking us if we had a headache or felt sick, two of the symptoms, and also made sure that we drank safe water to avoid any stomach bugs. The scenery is beautiful and in April the foothills are covered with rhododendrons, the national flower of Nepal.

As an adult education art teacher at Brockenhurst College in the New Forest, I kept a diary and made sketches along the way, this was an important part of my challenge, and I held an exhibition of work at the Forest Arts Centre in November/December 2011 and have a future exhibition in September 2013 at the Discovery Centre in Winchester, will all proceeds on sales being donated to the Charity.

Training and Obstacles

We have been in training since before the first trek continuing with our monthly 10 mile walks and climbing Snowdon in April 2011.

The biggest obstacle for me was a psychological one, the thought of climbing up those stone steps. I had heard that the villages of Tikhedungga (1490m) and Ulleri (1960m) along the Annapurna Sanctuary trail were joined by 3200 stone steps. The thought of these were much worse than when I actually put my foot on the first step.

This change in attitude and stamina was due to my enrolling at the New Forest Health and Leisure Centre at New Milton six months before we went.  My twice weekly visit to undertake my specially prepared routine and losing a stone in weight helped enormously. This gave me the confidence to face what was ahead and believe that I could do it.

Clothing and Equipment

Most of the clothes and equipment I bought for the first trek were used for the second. There is a code of conduct in Nepal not to overload the porters, so we made sure that we kept our kit to 10 kilos, with the moral limit being 15 kilos. We carried all our personal gear in our rucksacks and were careful to buy clothes that were light and dried quickly when washed.

The most important kit are good boots, worn for a few months on long walks beforehand, a spare pair of boot laces just in case, adjustable walking poles, Coolmax liner socks to prevent blisters and a rucksack with a cage to prevent perspiration seeping through into the contents of your rucksack.

Advice to others

I would advise anyone who wants to undertake a challenge such as this, to just go for it if they want to and don’t listen to anyone who tries to put you off.

Find a trekking agency that are professional and arrange everything needed for the trek including permits, hotels and transport in Nepal etc. You cannot enter the Annapurna Conservation Area without a permit and to have all this arranged beforehand is important.

Research the etiquette of the country, and adhere to it, when in someone else’s country, respect their customs and traditions and respect will be returned.

If I Won..

If I win the Mountain Warehouse Charity Challenge I will absolutely thrilled, and my celebration would be the honour of handing over £5000 to Naomi House and Jacksplace Hospices for Children and Young Adults for the wonderful work that is done there.

The Challenge
In April 2013 my friend Jean and I undertook the 12 day Annapurna Sanctuary Trek in aid of Naomi House and Jacksplace Hospices for Children and Young Adults, eventually arriving at the Base Camp in 4 inches of snow
The Charity
I have been a fundraiser for this Charity for the past 16 years. The charity at Sutton Scotney near Winchester in Hampshire offers support and end of life care to children and young people with life limiting conditions and their families. £7m has to be raised each year for the Hospice to run, the majority of which is obtained through community fundraising.
The Training
As this was the second fundraising trek we had done in the past 2 years, I was aware that strength and stamina was important as was being psychologically prepared. The trek ranged from hundreds of steep stone steps in sub tropical conditions to difficult terrains in sub zero temperatures through avalanche chutes and ice and snow. Apart from regular 10 mile walks, I attended the local gym twice a week undergoing a specific exercise regime designed by the instructors to suit my purpose. I also lo